1943 · USSR / Moscow 2, Dog Square 10.
On the date of the inscription, newspapers reported that Russian troops crushed Nazi attacks and captured an important height in the northwest Caucasus front. It is possible this is the good news referred to by the composer.
Not one of the other song cycles by Dmitri Shostakovich reflects such personal feelings as the Six Romances: tender concern, the pain of parting, affection for friends with whom he had lost touch. It is to these friends that he dedicated the set. And nowhere else in his vocal works is the presence of death so threatening, so inevitable. But then the cycle was composed during the darkest days of the Second World War, while he was exiled in Kuibyshev (now Samara), evacuated from the besieged city of Leningrad. In 1942 he attended a preview of Prokofiev's War and Peace and shortly after composed Sir Walter Raleigh to His Sonne, to a text by Sir Walter Raleigh. Refused permission to return to Leningrad, now under siege, he wrote settings of three poems by Robert Burns in Russian translations by his friend, Samuil Marshak, Shakespeare's Sonnet LXVI in a translation by Boris Pasternak, and the English nursery-rhyme The King's Campaign. In the atmosphere of friendship with the anti-Hitler Allies, using the poetry of English authors seemed quite natural, especially in the case of Robert Burns, whose poetry praising the common people was popular in the Soviet Union and was considered "ideologically correct." Burns's lines "For a' that, and a' that, our toils obscure,and a' that, the rank is but the guinea's stamp, the Man's the gowd for a' that" were memorized by Soviet schoolchildren, both in Russian at literature classes and in English in English-language classes.
The Six Romances were premiered with piano accompaniment in 1942. The orchestrated version was made by Shostakovich in 1943 (Op. 62a). Four years before his death, Shostakovich made a further version for voice and chamber orchestra (Op. 140).
An uncommon and highly interesting signed score from the esteemed Soviet composer whose 15 symphonies and large body of chamber and instrumental works occupy a place of central importance in the 20th-century repertoire. (Inventory #: 12040)